A Salmonella poisoning is also called in medicine salmonellosis or Salmonella enteritis designated. As the name itself suggests, this disease is poisoning or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract by salmonella bacteria. The symptoms are similar to gastrointestinal flu and can therefore easily be underestimated. Medical treatment is strongly recommended, especially for children and the elderly.
Schematic representation of first aid for food poisoning and salmonella poisoning. Click to enlarge.
In the warm season, the number of diseases increases again and again Salmonella poisoning. Salmonella poisoning, also known as salmonellosis, is the most common food-borne infectious disease in Germany.
The gastrointestinal tract is disturbed by the penetration of salmonella. These rod-shaped bacteria come in numerous species. About 120 different species cause salmonella poisoning in humans. Depending on the type of bacteria, Salmonella poisoning shows a different clinical picture. The bacteria enter the body through spoiled food.
However, not all bacteria ingested lead to severe salmonella poisoning. In contrast, a relatively short duration of illness of one to two days is very common.
What is certain is that the cause of the Salmonella poisoning is an infection from spoiled food. At suitable temperatures, the salmonella find a good breeding ground, especially in poultry, meat, egg dishes and dairy products. Some species cannot be destroyed even by cooking.
Salmonella are also viable for several months. Even when food is frozen, they do not die and can still cause salmonella poisoning after defrosting. They multiply very quickly and so enter the body in large quantities when eating infected food.
The gastric acid destroys a large number of salmonella with its germicidal effect. There is less stomach acid in children or the elderly. Therefore, these groups are particularly at risk and suffer severe salmonella poisoning even with a low salmonella count. In Salmonella poisoning, the bacteria migrate into the intestines and establish themselves in the intestinal mucosa. They damage them by excreting bacterial toxins. The disease can break out after just a few hours.
Salmonellosis manifests itself in different ways in every person. How severe the symptoms are depends on how strong the immune system is. The illness usually begins with sudden nausea and vomiting. The patient suffers from headaches and extreme abdominal cramps. Then there is watery diarrhea, which is very painful.
Since the bacterium attacks the intestine and causes inflammation there (enteritis), blood can also appear in the stool due to the damaged intestinal mucosa. Fever occurs in around 50 percent of those affected. Diarrhea causes the body to lose large amounts of fluids, which can lead to a lack of electrolytes. This manifests itself in a general feeling of weakness and dry skin.
The mouth and mucous membranes are also dry. If the fluid and electrolyte deficiency is not compensated for, palpitations, muscle cramps and clouded consciousness can occur. Usually symptoms go away after a few days and the patient recovers. In rare cases, the disease can be severe.
If the bacteria get to other organs via the bloodstream, they lead to severe infections there. Abscesses can develop on the lungs, liver or kidneys, joints, meninges, the inner lining of the heart or the urinary tract can also be infected. As a result, life-threatening Salmonella sepsis with circulatory collapse and organ failure is possible.
The Salmonella poisoning begins with general symptoms such as malaise, nausea and vomiting.
There are also stomach cramps and diarrhea. Severe salmonella poisoning is accompanied by diarrhea and fever. If the salmonellosis is severe, it can also lead to chills. Those affected feel seriously ill in a short time.
The disruption of the intestinal function creates a deficiency in the body's water balance and electrolyte balance. Salmonella poisoning can also affect heart function and temperature control.
This can lead to a drop in blood pressure and even collapse. While healthy and younger people recover after a few hours of feeling unwell, salmonella poisoning can also be fatal in children and older people.
If salmonella poisoning is treated properly, complications rarely occur. The danger of negative sequelae is especially in people who suffer from a weak immune system. These primarily include children and senior citizens. In Germany, however, deaths from Salmonella complications are very rare.
One of the greatest dangers of salmonellosis is the loss of fluid. This in turn can cause circulatory collapse or failure. The loss of fluid is mostly due to prolonged vomiting or persistent diarrhea. The lack of fluid can be recognized by dry mucous membranes in the mouth, a dry tongue, dry, wrinkled skin and a reduced amount of urine.
Because the blood plasma thickens, the risk of blood clots forming (thrombosis) increases. This also means that there is a risk of blood vessel blockage. If the patient suffers from previous damage to his kidneys, there is a risk of kidney failure.
If the salmonella penetrates into the bloodstream, the salmonellosis can spread further through the body. This increases the risk of inflammation of the liver (hepatitis), inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), meningitis (meningitis), pneumonia, heart inflammation (endocarditis), inflammation of the vertebrae (spondylitis) or bone inflammation (osteomyelitis).
Reactive arthritis, a disease of the joints, can also occur. In the worst case, life-threatening sepsis (blood poisoning) occurs. Another life-threatening complication is the development of intestinal ulcers, which trigger an intestinal perforation.
If symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and headache suddenly appear, you may have been infected with salmonella. A doctor's visit is advisable if the symptoms do not go away from bed rest and rest. If you have a strong fever or you notice a painful defecation with blood and mucus, an immediate doctor's visit is recommended. Salmonella poisoning often occurs in connection with the consumption of spoiled food.
If the symptoms develop after consuming eggs, meat, fish, milk ice cream and other perishable products, the family doctor should be consulted. People with a weakened immune system, as well as children and the elderly, require prompt treatment. Signs of dehydration such as decreased urine output and a dry mouth should be checked immediately.
If you experience the typical symptoms of bacteremia, such as high fever and palpitations, you should call the emergency services. The patient needs inpatient treatment to prevent life-threatening complications. Salmonella poisoning can be treated by a family doctor or a gastroenterologist. If this happens in time, a positive course of the disease can be expected. Most patients are largely symptom-free again after three to four days. The family doctor must be informed of persistent symptoms.
Treating a Salmonella poisoning is primarily aimed at compensating for the loss of fluid and strengthening the mineral balance again. The sick person should drink sufficient fluids. This can be lightly sweetened or lightly salted.
The yardstick is that the fluid should taste like tear fluid at most. If the body is already very dehydrated, an electrolyte solution from the pharmacy can also help. In the event of severe vomiting during salmonella poisoning, the patient may only ingest the liquid in small quantities. During the treatment of salmonella poisoning, the patient's circulatory functions must be closely monitored. In order to relieve the intestines, the patient only gets light foods, such as clear soups, rusks or grated apples. This also stimulates the natural bowel activity again.
The administration of medication for nausea and vomiting as well as constipation medication can alleviate the course of the disease somewhat. Antibiotics can also be used in the case of severe salmonella poisoning. However, this means that it takes longer for Salmonella to be eliminated from the body and the course of the disease is delayed.
Salmonella poisoning often irritates the intestinal nervous system. Therefore, in the follow-up care, care should be taken to avoid further irritation of the nerve cells or at least to reduce the risk of this. People who work in the sale or manufacture of food and have become infected with salmonella must refrain from their work until the salmonellosis has subsided.
An important part of the aftercare of Salmonella poisoning is the diet. This includes the regular intake of fluids at short intervals. It should continue for two to three days after the symptoms have subsided. The patient takes two to three sips of lukewarm water every 10 to 15 minutes. Drinking a traditional consommé or teas such as chamomile, fennel, aniseed or caraway tea is also considered helpful.
Around three to four days after the symptoms have improved, you should only consume light foods that contain small portions. Cooked carrots, rice, small amounts of bananas and soft-boiled oat flakes without bran are recommended. From the fourth day onwards, dishes containing protein, such as cooked chicken, may be served again. In contrast, you should avoid red meat, sugar, sausage, dairy products, sweetened drinks, pastries, nuts and whole grain products for the first ten days. It can also make sense to give a probiotic that contains beneficial bacterial strains that strengthen the intestinal flora.
If samonella poisoning is suspected, a doctor or the nearest hospital should be consulted immediately. As a self-help measure against the often agonizing diarrhea, natural remedies that are able to bind toxins in the intestine have proven themselves. Healing earth, which is ingested dissolved in water, is particularly effective. These preparations are available over the counter in pharmacies and drug stores. A similar effect is attributed to flea seeds and psyllium husks, which are mainly sold in health food stores and organic supermarkets.
Severe diarrhea and vomiting make the body very dehydrated. It is therefore important that those affected ensure that they have an adequate supply of fluids and minerals. Vegetable broth is particularly suitable because the high salt content helps the body to store the water in the body. In severe cases or in the case of long-lasting diarrhea, it can also be useful to take food supplements, especially a multi-mineral preparation. In addition, those affected should take it easy and, if possible, stay in bed so that the body can recover from the infection as quickly as possible.
Since Salmonella is highly contagious, it is also important to ensure increased hygiene. Under no circumstances should the infected person prepare food for the family. Cups, plates and cutlery must not be shared with other people and must be cleaned with water at least 60 degrees Celsius. There is also a risk of smear infection when sharing towels or other hygiene items.